January 2, 2001

2001 Winter Bulletin

Chelan Ridge Fall Hawk Migration Results

Last fall, a group of 75+ FRG volunteers conducted a 6-week hawk migration study at Chelan Ridge in Okanogan County, Washington. This was the second year of the project. From 2 September through 14 October (42 days), we operated two banding stations (North and South Blind) on the 5,600' ridge. Our goal was to capture, band and release as many migrant birds of prey as possible. We hope to eventually learn where they go in winter, how they get there, how long they live and where they nest in the north. This project is part of an ongoing study being performed in partnership with the USFS and HawkWatch International.

"Immature Golden Eagle, Chelan Ridge, Fall 2000"

Immature Golden Eagle, Chelan Ridge, Fall 2000.

This year, we banded 200 birds of prey that included 10 different species. Three of these (Golden Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk and Northern Hawk-Owl) were new to the study. Here are our results from this year

Species North
Northern Harrier 1 2 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk 51 74 125 (63%)
Cooper's Hawk 26 20 46 (23%)
Northern Goshawk 5 5 10 (05%)
Red-tailed Hawk 1 7 8
Rough-legged Hawk 1 0 1
Golden Eagle 0 1 1
Merlin 2 2 4
Prairie Falcon 1 0 1
Northern Hawk Owl 1 0 1
Total 89 111 200

Last year (1999), we banded 220 hawks at the North Blind. This year (2000), we moved North Blind uphill a few hundred yards and caught only 89 hawks (51% fewer). We suspect that we moved it off the main flight line and, as a result, caught far fewer birds. South Blind caught 111.

Adult Goshawk

Adult Goshawk, Chelan Ridge

Our First Chelan Ridge Band Return

Over the two seasons of the study at Chelan Ridge (1999-2000), we have banded a total of 420 raptors. Ninety percent have been accipiters. So far, we have received only a single return, a REALLY small rate of return (far less than 1%), but it is a start.

An immature Cooper's Hawk, banded on 16 September (0950), 2000, at the North Blind by Mark Gleason was recovered at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California on 4 October. The bird had flown south approximately 932 miles in 19 days, an average of 49 miles per day.

Skagit Flats Winter Raptor Census

The annual Skagit Flats Hawk Census will take place on Saturday, 17 February (0900-1100). Route leaders, please mark the date in your calendars. The capable Bob Merrick will be coordinating the count once again this year. To lend a hand, please give him a call at (360) 678-3161 or better yet, you now can e-mail him at tinekesfam@aol.com. Make sure that you welcome him to the digital age.

Last year, we set a new record on the Skagit Flats (1,056 raptors). Let's see if we can exceed that in 2001.

Northern Hawk-Owl

"Adult Northern Hawk Owl"

Adult Northern Hawk
Owl, Chelan Ridge, WA, October 2000

Last fall, on 13 October, I discovered a Northern Hawk Owl perched in a snag above an old clear-cut at Chelan Ridge, at around 5,000' elevation. This is one of the rarest northern owls and the first I had ever seen. Fewer than 20 have been reported in Washington. Several of our banders were able to see the bird clearly and we were all amazed by its remarkable tameness and the size of its enormous legs and feet. We took the time to capture the bird and were able to weigh, measure and photograph it. It was the first Northern Hawk Owl banded in Washington. To check out pictures of this bird, visit our web-site at www.frg.org.

Black Merlins Found Nesting In Bellingham

Black merlin

Black Merlin

The Black Merlin is one of the least known raptors in Washington. Fewer than 20 nests have been documented in our state over the last 100 years. Most of these have been found by Merlin expert, Tom Gleason, in the last decade.
Last summer, a birder living in residential Bellingham reported a family group (2 adults and 4 young) flying around her neighborhood, landing on rooftops, wires, trees and buildings in July. We were able to confirm that they were the Black Merlin race (Falco columbarius suckleyi), based on their distinctive plumages.
This is the first known record of Merlins nesting in a city in Washington. We hope the young will become a nucleus for other cities in the
Puget Sound Basin in the near future.

More Peregrine Band Returns

"Ed Deal with his first peregrine"

Ed Deal with his first peregrine banded on 19 November 2000, Samish Flats.

Every summer, a small but dedicated group of people spends hundreds of hours in the San Juan Islands studying Peregrine Falcons and banding their young. Early in the season, this work is often cold, wet and tedious. Later in the season, going into the cliff sites to band young can be strenuous, difficult and, at times, dangerous.

"San Juan nestling peregrine"

San Juan nestling peregrine, 2000

So when we get a sighting or a band return from one of these birds, it is greatly appreciated by the whole team. These people work really hard for each return. To date, we have banded 115 eyasses in the islands and have had 25 returns (sightings, recaptures and recoveries) for an astonishingly high 21.7% rate of return. Here are the 5 latest San Juan reports.

  • A nestling female peregrine banded on 7 June 1997 was recovered on 24 September 2000 in Vancouver, BC. Several of our birds show up in Vancouver, presumably because of the pigeon population.

  • Another nestling female banded on 10 June 1997 was found dead under a crane at the Port of Olympia on 9 October 2000. She had reportedly lived there for over a year.

  • A nestling male banded on 29 May 1999 was recovered dead under an oil well near Drumheller, Alberta, approximately 457 miles northeast of his natal site. The bird was badly decomposed so the exact date of death is unknown.

  • Paul De Bruyn recently provided us with two sightings of our banded birds from several years ago. A nestling female banded on 8 June 1995 was seen on Galiano Island in the Canadian Gulf Islands on 9 July 1997.

  • A male nestling banded on the same day at the same nest was observed as an adult on Sucia Island in the San Juans on 22 April 1998.

"Tacoma eyas peregrines"

Mark Prostor banding nestling peregrines,
Tacoma 2000.

Seattle Peregrine Project

"Bell at Washington Mutual Tower, Seattle, Wa."

Bell at the Washington Mutual Tower,Seattle.

Ruth Taylor, coordinator of the Seattle Peregrine Project, always likes me to remind people that the nesting season will start again in just a couple of months. She wants you to know that you are welcome to volunteer at WAMU observing the nesting birds and changing videotapes. To participate, please contact Ruth at rutht@seanet.com. I would add that you won't be sorry. It is an incredible experience.

This will be the eighth year of the project (!). Stewart and Bell are both starting to get up there in years, so enjoy them while you can. No reports at all from the four young fledged last summer. I suppose that no news is good news.

If you would like to report a peregrine sighting in Seattle, please call Ruth on the SEATTLE PEREGRINE HOTLINE at (206) 654-4423. It's also a great place to hear about other peregrine sightings in town.

Whidbey Island Raptor Nesting Survey

Few people realize there is a National Park on Whidbey Island. Established by Congress in 1978, it is called Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve Area. Located in and around Coupeville, its purpose is to preserve the unique historic and cultural elements of the area.

In the spring of 2001, we are going to begin a long-term raptor nesting study within the Park. Working in conjunction with the National Park Service, we plan to survey all habitats within the National Reserve area over a 5-year period. The study will include a preliminary raptor nesting class for our volunteers, guest lectures by several raptor biologists and lots of field time. If you would like to be a part of this newly forming team (especially those of you living on Whidbey), please contact Bud at the FRG for more information.

Snowy Owl Incursion ?

Several Snowy Owls have made their way into western Washington again this winter. The first report occurred on 8 November when a live bird was fished out of the water in Blaine Harbor, Whatcom County. It was taken to Sarvey Wildlife Care Center where it is doing fine.

In a typical year, juvenile Snowy Owls usually arrive en mass and stay in one general area (e.g. a particular field) for the winter. This year has been unusual with several birds showing up in odd spots and then disappearing again. As we get deeper into winter, a few birds are remaining at places like Big Ditch, Dungeness and Ocean Shores, but the big push many of us expected to happen has failed to materialize so far.

If you see a Snowy in your area, please give us a call or e-mail and let us know.

Snowy Owl Lecture(s)

Denver Holt, founder of the Owl Institute in Montana, will present 2 lectures (Seattle and Mt. Vernon) describing his work with Snowy Owls in Alaska over the last 11 years. The talks are sponsored by the FRG and will be held on Wednesday night, 28 February at the Padilla Bay Center and Thursday night, 1 March, at the Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle. Both presentations will begin at 7:30 pm. To cover his expenses, we are requesting a $3.00 donation at the door. This is going to be a fun and informative talk, so mark it on your calendars.

Hawkwatching in Western Washington Classes

"Immature Rough-legged Hawk".

Immature Rough-legged Hawk.

We will hold the annual winter hawk classes in four cities this year, Bellingham, Mt. Vernon, Seattle and for the first time, Everett. Please pass the dates and locations along to your friends (or enemies) depending on how you feel about the class.

City Location Dates / Time Cost
Mt. Vernon Padilla Bay Center 11 Jan.-8 Feb.
7 pm Thursday
Bellingham Whatcom Museum 16 Jan.-13 Feb.
7 pm Tuesday
Everett TBA 17 Jan.-14 Feb.
7 pm Wednesday
Seattle Urban Horticulture 9 Feb.-9 March
7 pm Fridays

To reserve your space in class, please send a check to the Falcon Research Group, Box 248, Bow, WA 98232. Direct your questions to Bud Anderson at bud@frg.org or call (360) 757-1911.

Annual Dues

Most of you know our dues here at the FRG are $25.00 per year. If you like what we do and want to help, send them in. We thank you.

~~ Thank you for your support! ~~